Granada, Nicaragua is Beautiful - This American Girl

Granada, Nicaragua

 

I never decided to go to Granada, Nicaragua.

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

Less than twenty-four hours earlier I was en route to Puerto Viejo. I had planned to spend the next few months settling in.

 

The Garden Cafe Granada

 

Finding the clarity I needed to determine my next adventure. Conserving the energy I spent simply trying to survive and channel it into projects I had neglected on the road.

 

Granada, Nicaragua

 

I couldn’t wait to be back on my bicycle. To cook myself dinner. To see my friends. To return to the closest sense of normalcy I have experienced in more than a year.

 

The Garden Cafe Granada, Nicaragua

 

But the night before I planned to go, something inside me did not feel ready. Something in me feared that if I went back to Puerto Viejo I might never leave.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fruit market

 

I worried I might lose my wanderlust spirit and become stuck.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fish market

 

This decision weighed heavily on me.

 

Granada, Nicaragua iglesia

 

So I did what I often do when presented with a difficult choice:

I relieved myself of all responsibility and instead let the universe decide.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fruit market

 

It chose Granada.

 

Granada, Nicaragua church

 

And there, in the beautiful, hectic, colonial city, I was reminded why I love this life of travel.

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

I wandered the quieted early morning streets

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

eating fruit freshly cut on the road

 

Granada, Nicaragua street food

 

fried balls of yucca dipped in honey

 

Granada, Nicaragua street food

 

and the most incredible pupusa known to man.

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

I never felt more alive.

 

Granada, Nicaragua iglesia

 

I marveled at stunning churches

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

stairs

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

and streets.

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

I chatted with locals

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

whose rapid Spanish

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

humbled my sassy spirit.

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

I photographed

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

every

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

beautiful

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

door

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

unblocked by passing cars.

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

I escaped the heat of the city

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

in a mecca

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

with a spa and a pool

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

and the meanest little residents

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

who nipped at my head and toes.

 

Mombacho volcano Nicaragua

 

I climbed to the top of volcanoes

 

Las Isletas Granada

 

explored tiny islands

 

Las Isletas Granada

 

swam in a cool blue lagoon.

 

Expressionista Granada, Nicaragua

 

I took the wrong bus

 

Expressionista Granada, Nicaragua

 

but found my new favorite café

 

Bell Tower of Iglesia Merced

 

I climbed

 

Bell Tower of Iglesia Merced

 

to the top of a tower

 

Carnival in Granada, Nicaragua

 

moments later saw a Carnival parade.

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

I became lost

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

early and often

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

but the universe always led me

 

View of Granada, Nicaragua

 

exactly where I needed to be.

 

Where to Stay in Granada, Nicaragua

 

Hostel El Momento

$8 for a dorm bed, private rooms start at $14

Hands down one of my favorite hostels I have ever stayed in. The rooms are large and spacious, even the dorm boasts big double beds. The communal area is adorably decorated and feels comforting, like home. The staff is kind, accommodating, and helpful. And somehow, in a city with incredible cuisine, the onsite restaurant has some of the best and most affordable food around. Try the thai red curry with loads of veggies and local raw cashews.

 

Hotel Spa Granada

Rooms start at $59 per night including full buffet breakfast, daily pool use, and one spa treatment per day

Hotel Spa Granada is inside of a beautiful old colonial building. The rooms, the gardens, the pool, and the views are all stunning. Enjoy a buffet breakfast each morning with gallo pinto, eggs, fruit, granola, toast, coffee, and juice. Spend time at the pool when you burn out from the heat of the street. Enjoy a massage, manicure, pedicure, or facial e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y. For $60 it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Hotel con Corazon

Single rooms start at $62 per night

This hotel has style. Consider it the Ace of Nicaragua. Rooms are air conditioned with private bathrooms and plenty of storage. The rate includes the use of a nice outdoor pool, wifi, great communal areas, an extremely friendly, helpful staff and breakfast. So what’s with the name? They donate 100% of profits to support local children with tutoring programs, extracurricular activities, and even sponsored tuition for those moving onto university.

 

Backpacker’s Inn

$15 for a dorm bed

This might be the fanciest hostel I’ve ever stayed in… and I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels! It may be much pricier than other hostels in Granada, but the communal spaces are as beautiful and well decorated as some of the nicest hotels in the area and there is a big outdoor pool guests can enjoy.

 

Where to Eat in Granada, Nicaragua

 

The Garden Café

$3-5 for breakfast, $4-6 for lunch

Come to The Garden Cafe to sit and read one of their many books on a cozy couch or chair, sip on a cappuccino, nibble on a freshly baked muffin, and observe the Granada expat community. Enjoy a healthy breakfast or lunch with fresh fruit and vegetables and other local ingredients. Purchase organic farm produce when available.

 

Café de los Suenos

$5-8 for lunch

Is your body craving an enormous, satisfying salad? Head to Cafe de los Suenos immediately. For $6 they load roasted beets, avocado, grilled chicken, feta cheese, bell peppers, and bacon on top of a big bed of lettuce. It might be the best salad I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. The space is lovely, as is the staff. Quiche, lasagna, crepes, and panini also grace this french inspired menu.

 

Expressionista

$2-10 for breakfast, lunch, and treats

An absolutely beautiful cafe and shop owned by expats from Spain. The interior is positively inspired, the organic food is delicious, and the perfect little treats will tempt you to come again and again. Treat yourself to the lovely iced tea, cold coconut water, and yogurt berry cheesecake if they have it.

 

El Zaguan

$15 for local steak

The ambience may make you feel a bit like you’ve landed in the Olive Garden of Central America, but give it a chance. It’s the most famous restaurant and steakhouse in Granada for a reason. The steaks are tender, perfectly cooked and served alongside local favorites like grilled plantains and celery sauce.

 

On the street

$0.50

It may not be healthy. It may not be safe. But it is delicious. And cheap. Savor a life changing pupusa made from flattened cornmeal dough stuffed with local cheese, grilled hot and crispy topped with vinegary cabbage salad. Eat seasoned fried chicken on top of crisp plantain chips. Taste unfamiliar goodies that catch your eye. Stock up on inexpensive fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and cheese at the local market if you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen.

 

What to Do in Granada Nicaragua

 

Wander the streets

Free

Days can easily be spent simply wandering the streets with your eyes and a camera. Enjoy the beautiful technicolor painted colonial architecture. Sit in the park by the fountain. Let your eyes feast at the colorful markets. Soak in the beauty that is Granada.

 

Swim at the Laguna de Apoyo

$12 for a tour through one of the many hostels

Just outside of Granada is the stunning natural wonder called the Laguna de Apoyo. It is a clean, blue, body of water that rests inside of the crater of a volcano. Make sure to be dropped off at The Monkey Hut to lounge on docks, eat at the restaurant, use complimentary kayaks, and take a long swim.

 

Take a tour of the Isletas

$20 for an all day tour of the isletas.

One of Granada’s many majestic offerings is its proximity to Lake Nicaragua and the many beautiful tiny islands nearby. Explore on a boat, then stop, eat, rest, swim, kayak. Perfection.

 

Climb to the top of Mombacho

$15 for transport to the top, $5-10 for guided tours

Walking to the top of Mombacho is entirely possible, it is also incredibly grueling. Do yourself a favor and save your energy for the many trails at the top. Enjoy stunning views of Granada, the isletas, and the surrounding countryside.

 

Escape the heat at Hotel Spa Granada

$5 for all day pool use, come and go as you please. $8-30 for spa services, $55 for a manicure, pedicure, facial, hour long massage, and eyebrow wax…what?!

Granada is absolutely beautiful, but damn is it hot. I spent nearly every afternoon when the sun was at its strongest, bathing in the cool water of the private courtyard pool. Beware of the three evil ducks who act as gatekeepers surrounding the adorable white kitten. They will bite and attack you. The spa services are excellent and shockingly affordable.

 

Center yourself at Pure Spa

 

$5 for a gym or yoga pass, acupuncture starting at $17, full spa services at a screaming deal

A day of pampering at Pure Spa is necessary. Daily attendance is even better. Skilled teachers offer Vinyasa yoga classes several times daily, a full gym is available for your own routine, and you can take advantage of exceptional spa services like acupunture, reiki, and massage for next to nothing. They service detoxifyingly delicious green juice all day for only $1 and yummy vegetarian meals for $5. You may wonder if you’ve died and gone to wellness heaven.

 

Climb to the top of the Tower of Merced

$1 for entrance to the top, tower closes at 5:30pm

A short climb to the church’s bell tower offers beautiful views of Granada and Mombacho. The bell rings on the hour and it’s an impressive site to see a strong man rock that bell! This spot is ideal at sunset when a warm glow washes over the town and the apse of the cathedral becomes a lovely silhouette against the pink sky.

 

Visit the Calzada at night 

Free or very expensive depending how soft your spot is

Watch street performers, have a drink, and mingle with locals on the liveliest strip in Granada. Vendors may hassle you, stay strong and you won’t be a target.

 

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Hello beautiful soul,
In August 2018 I stopped blogging as This American Girl. You can now find me at my new website camillewillemain.com! Hope to see you there xx
Love, Camille